Right up there on Chiang Rai’s unusual temple list
Published/Last edited or updated: 11th June, 2019
A new entry on Chiang Rai’s growing list of unusual temples, the surreal Wat Huay Pla Kung certainly merits a ranking close to the top.
The main feature—which you can spot from a long way off—is a giant statue of the Bodhisattva Guan (or Kuan) Yin. Often confused with Buddha by passing tourists she’s also known in English as the Goddess of Mercy or Compassion and is an important deity in the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon and thus highly venerated by both resident and visiting Chinese.
This shining, pure white image atop an artificial hill is seated on a lotus flower which forms the entrance and ground floor. Above this and accessible by a high-speed elevator are no less than 26 storeys. If the exterior isn’t surreal enough the interior definitely is beginning with the bright red-uniformed lift attendants. Every inch of wall is covered with the kind of intricate icing-sugar stucco work inspired by Wat Rong Khun and which seems to be increasingly becoming a Chiang Rai signature architectural style.
The lift (entrance to the temple is free but you pay 40 baht if you don’t want to walk up) whisks you up to the 25th floor from where a flight of steps leads you up one more level to the viewing floor. It’s enclosed and views are through windows amid the stucco as you’re actually looking through holes in Guan Yin’s head. (If we calculated correctly floor 25 is eye-level and 26 the head.) Views from the windows are spectacular as are those of the interior where again white-coloured stucco images of Buddhist scenes, myths and figures cover all available wall space.
To the right of the enormous statue is the temple’s main worshipping hall with a more classical design though again finished in the elaborate icing-sugar style while to the right again, atop another small rise, is a nine-storey octagonal pagoda also containing plentiful Chinese-style Buddhist scenes and more Bodhisattva images. These make use of a much wider colour palette and again windows on each floor afford spectacular views though this time there’s no lift.
Free electric carts take visitors around the complex dropping you off at various spots while if that’s not enough daily free, vegetarian lunches are offered to all visitors.
There’s perhaps a limit to the number of unusual temples one can take in during a stay in Chiang Rai and whether you opt for a white, blue, black or multi-coloured one—or this giant, hollow Chinese deity—is down to personal taste and time restraints but this sight does fit in very well with any trip out west along the Kok Valley. As noted it’s just a short hop off the Ban Ruam Mit road and close to the Buddha Image cave, Tham Phra, so if you’re in the area we’d recommend stopping if only for a quick peek of the views from the 26th floor.
Not surprisingly this skyscraper-sized statue is visible from a long way off but the easiest access from town is to take the Mae Fah Luang Bridge and look out for a signposted left turn a short while after. It’s the same turning as Ruam Mit. Passing Tham Tupu you’ll reach a T-junction with Tham Phra indicated to the left and Wat Huay Pla Kung a short distance on the right. Easy cycling distance but no public transport access that we found so you’d have to negotiate hard with a tuk tuk to get anything less than a 500 baht return.
Address: 553 Moo 3, Rimkok district
T: (089) 851 5127;
Coordinates (for GPS): 99º48'33.25" E, 19º56'59.89" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: Entrance free and elevator 40 baht per person return
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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